Juan Carreño de Miranda, Portrait of the Dwarf Michol, c. 1670–82

Little person standing amongst exotic birds and small dogs

Juan Carreño de Miranda

(Avilés, Spain, 1614– 1685, Madrid, Spain)

Portrait of the Dwarf Michol

c. 1670–82

Oil on canvas

48 5/8 x 40 7/8 in. (123.5 x 103.8 cm)

Meadows Museum, SMU, Dallas. Museum purchase, The Meadows Foundation Fund, MM.85.01

Listen to Meadows Museum docent Holly Whiting discuss this work (3:05 minutes)

Audio Transcript

Juan Carreño de Miranda (1614– 1685)

Portrait of the Dwarf Michol, c. 1670–82

by Holly Whiting, Meadows Museum docent

Allow me to introduce you to the artist...Juan Carreño de Miranda.


Juan Carreño de Miranda was born in Asturias, Spain in 1614 and moved with his family to Madrid in the late 1620s where he trained as an apprentice for well-known artists of the time. He was eventually noticed by Diego Velázquez, one of Spain's greatest masters, and was greatly influenced by his works, including Velázquez's sensitive portraiture of little people and the disabled. In 1671 Carreño was appointed court painter for the ruling Habsburgs, displaying an understanding for the workings and the psychology of the royal court. Carreño is remembered as a painter of portraits but also completed some works for the Catholic church, including altarpieces. He died in Madrid, Spain, in 1685.


The singular role of men and women with dwarfism became an integral part of the Habsburg court culture. Portraits of little people had existed in Spain for some time but were revolutionized by Diego Velázquez. He painted compassionate likenesses of jesters and little people, which later influenced Juan Carreño de Miranda.

The portrait of Don Michol is a delightful painting which gives us a glimpse into the daily life of the king's court. Don Michol is the central figure, dressed elegantly in black and white, giving him a sense of dignity. The ruffles are large and frilly compared to his tiny feet and hands. But for many viewers, the central figure of the painting is the magnificent cockatoo perched on Don Michol's arm. These exotic birds were not native to Spain, so they demonstrate Spain's presence in the New World and acquisitions for the Crown. The birds and animals also help the viewer understand Don Michol's smallness by giving us a point of comparison. The array of birds, dogs, and food with Don Michol indicate that he was most likely the court animal caretaker. Notice, also, the pomegranates on the left side of the portrait which were undoubtedly used for food, but were also an emblem of the Habsburg monarchy and could be a subtle reference to Don Michol's patron, King Charles II.